Ricky Church reviews Star Wars: Darth Vader #1…
The most fearsome villain of all time returns with an all-new series! When Anakin Skywalker fell, both to the pull of the dark side and to the blade of Obi-Wan Kenobi, he rose back up, more machine than man. Having lost everything that was once dear to him, the former chosen one must take his first steps into a darker world…as Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith!
Of all the villains in pop culture, Darth Vader stands as one of the most memorable ever. He’s been an iconic figure for 40 years, though his backstory still has quite a few gaps. Beyond his turn to the Dark Side shown in Revenge of the Sith, we don’t know the full transition former Jedi Anakin Skywalker took to become the feared Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Charles Soule looks to fill in those gaps in the immediate aftermath of Revenge of the Sith, showing a Darth Vader just getting used to the suit. Seeing Vader pretty much start over again is a very interesting premise and while Soule does play with the new dynamic between Vader and Palpatine, Darth Vader #1 unfortunately doesn’t quite realize its potential.
The story itself is at least interesting. After his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader has to prove himself to Palpatine, showing that he can still wield the Force and be a worthy apprentice. His first task is to create his own lightsaber, but to do that he needs to find a surviving Jedi to steal their kyber crystal. The issue retcons some of the knowledge around a Sith lightsaber, essentially saying the Sith Lord corrupts the kyber crystal with their darkness and anger for it to become red. It’s an intriguing test for Vader, forcing him to rely solely on the Force and test his limits without his main tool.
For the main star of the book, Vader doesn’t get a whole lot to say, but that’s always been the case. Soule does a good job of having Vader say just enough to convey his feelings without going into a monologue. Rather, it’s Palpatine who launches into a few monologues to Vader and Soule does capture the Emperor’s voice. You can practically hear Ian McDiarmid admonishing Vader.
However, the issue doesn’t quite reveal anything new about Vader during this time period. His reaction to killing Padme is brushed over very quickly once the opening pages get past the infamous “NO”. His mental state is worth examining, but too much time is spent on Palpatine lecturing Vader on building a lightsaber than it is on the death of Vader’s family. Granted, this is just the first issue so hopefully the following issues will be able to delve more into Vader’s psyche. For now, though, it’s a bit of a disappointment, especially when you consider that Kieron Gillen was able to say a lot about Vader’s state of mind in the first issue of last volume’s Darth Vader.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s artwork is good throughout the issue. He’s able to capture the look and feel of the movie’s pretty well and his character designs are also well done for the most part. Palpatine looks powerful and frightening and his depiction of Vader, especially towards the end as Vader’s suit gets damaged, standout. However, there are some inconsistencies in Vader’s mask or height in various panels. David Curiel’s colours adds to Camuncoli’s art, though, making the visuals standout that much more.
Darth Vader #1 also has a humourous and silly back-up that pokes fun at Vader’s endless cycle of officers as a helpless mouse droid watches in horror. It’s a nice, funny story, but also seems unnecessary. In hindsight, it might have been better to use those pages to better flesh out Vader and the state of the galaxy post-Sith.
Overall, Darth Vader #1 introduces the concept of a rookie Vader well, but it misses the mark on exploring his inner turmoil upon learning he killed Padme. Soule still writes the characters well, though, and the art is up to par. It may just be the fact that we were spoiled with the last volume of Darth Vader and this team just has a lot to live up to, but hopefully the later issues can dive deeper into Vader’s true psychological and physical transformation.